Corral returns to lead Prairie in Nike NW Invitational

BEAVERTON, Ore. --Two top west teams, Highlands Ranch and Sacred Heart, met in a tough opening game while Ashley Corral played in the first game since her second ankle surgery on the first day of the Northwest Nike Invitational at Southridge High School.

Sacred Heart 58, Highlands Ranch 51

The final billing of the night pitted ESPN HIGH Elite 25 West region No. 6 Highlands Ranch and No. 7 Sacred Heart against each other in a tough match for both teams.

At halftime, Highlands Ranch was cruising with a 33-26 lead, but a different Sacred Heart squad came out for the second half and stepped up its play.

"I thought it was a good gut-check by our kids," Sacred Heart coach Brian Harrigan said. "We didn't really play well in the first half; that could have easily gone in the tank. But we sucked it up and got it done."

The Irish started making the easy shots that didn't fall in the first half and were suddenly all over Highlands Ranch's passes. Sacred Heart took control in the third, outscoring the Falcons, 16-8. They held on to win with six consecutive points by junior Tierra Rogers, ranked No. 37 in the HoopGurlz.com Super Sixty for the 2009 class, who led both teams with 24 points.

University of Colorado-bound Alyssa Fressle struggled while junior Jenessa Burke led her team offensively with 21 points, something that impressed her coach, Caryn Jarocki.

"(Jenessa) played a whale of a game on offense," Jarocki said. "With the pace of the game, (Fressle) wasn't getting the ball in her hands enough. I probably should have changed something to fix that, but it wasn't anything that she did."

Prairie 56, Beaverton 49

Corral is playing without pain in her ankles for the first time since she started high school basketball.

The Prairie senior was cleared just two days before Thursday's game and it was a blessing for the Falcons. Although she didn't have a stellar shooting night, including a 2-of-7 first quarter, Corral led all scorers with 15 points.

"After four months, it's nice to get back in a game," Corral said.

Corral, who has signed with USC, had surgery for torn ligaments in her right ankle March 5, the Monday after Prairie finished sixth in Washington's 4A state tournament. At the time, doctors thought her right ankle was the worse of the two.

She had surgery on the left ankle right after summer basketball ended and, although participating in all of Prairie's practices this season, was only cleared for contact a week ago.

"It felt great," said Corral, who also has lost weight through a post-surgery conditioning program. "It felt weird to play with no pain. It's the first time in three years."

Teammate Lindsey Levenan added 13 points, while Beaverton's Jenna Krichevsky scored 12.

Long Beach Poly 57, Central Catholic 45

The No. 2 team in the country survived a couple late scares from Central Catholic of Portland, Ore., to advance to the semifinals.

The Jackrabbits led by 12 at halftime, but Central Catholic chipped it down to three, 41-38, at the beginning of the fourth quarter. Junior Monique Oliver, a transfer from Las Vegas, and senior April Cook, who signed with Washington State in November, led Long Beach Poly on a 16-7 run to close the game and seal the win.

Rutgers-bound senior Jasmine Dixon of Long Beach Poly led all scorers with 19 points.

Kate Lanz, Central Catholic's junior point guard, ranked No. 33 in the HoopGurlz Super Sixty for 2009, led her team with 17 points, but she struggled, especially in the second half, with a bad cold during the game.

Southridge 52, South Eugene 35

The host team didn't disappoint, crusing to a win by outscoring the Axemen 14-1 in the third quarter.

The Oregon schools, who are both used to playing without the shot clock, kept the pace of the game slow while the Skyhawks continued to come alive in the second half.

Three Southridge players hit double-digits: Arizona State-bound Alex Earl and USC-bound Michelle Jenkins each had 14, while senior Kiara Tate scored 11.

Senior Carmen Williams led South Eugene with 10.

Friday's Matchups

Prairie vs. Long Beach Poly, 6:30 p.m.
Southridge vs. Sacred Heart, 8:15 p.m.
Consolation Games:
Beaverton vs. Central Catholic, 3 p.m.
South Eugene vs. Highland Ranch, 4:45 p.m.

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Mindi Rice works part-time as a sportswriter at the Tacoma News Tribune and as a barista at Starbucks. She grew up in Seattle, where she attended Roosevelt High School and first found her love for girls basketball by covering the Roughriders for the student paper. Mindi graduated from the University of Oregon in June 2004 with a degree in journalism. She is a member of the Association of Women in Sports Media and the Native American Journalists Association. Her favorite sports to play and cover are basketball and softball and she considers herself a statistics nerd. Mindi can be reached at mindi@hoopgurlz.com.